Using Social Media to Assist Crime Victims
Cindy Southworth  -  2011/5/24
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
I am in the middle and high schools to present a condensed Safe Dates Program. For the social media component, is there a short video clip available to show this audience the importance of social boundaries with technology? Thank you
 
1.  Safety Net
 While we don't endorse any specific curriculum or program, there are a number of video clips that I use to start conversations about social boundaries with technology, including short conversational videos offered by MTV's A Thin Line at: http://www.athinline.org/videos and videos other teen tools at That's Not Cool: http://www.thatsnotcool.com/VideoIndex.aspx NetSmartzKids at http://www.netsmartzkids.org has some good videos and games for youth and preteens about things like internet safety and be safer online. Cynthia
 
2.  ShellyHall
 I have a great (newly updated) video on sexting and it has gone over very well with the middle schoolers (which is who I work with the most). If you want more info, email me shall@columbusga.org
 
 
Can you speak to social media as it pertains to working with college/university students: 1) Big Picture--how social media fits into prevention and intervention efforts; 2) tools/tips for using social media to work with college student; and 3) working with college students on safely using social media and what to do when it is being used to intimidate, threaten, etc. Thanks!
 
1.  Safety Net
 also Tech Savvy Teens and Tech Savvy Students -- same handout content with 2 title options
 
2.  Safety Net
 NNEDV has a bunch of Technology Safety Resources, some in 2 - 8 languages, at: http://www.nnedv.org/safetynetdocs . This includes our handouts on:Social Networking & Privacy Tips for Domestic & Sexual Violence Programs Online Privacy & Safety TipsPrivacy Considerations When Posting Content Online
 
3.  Kristine Hall
 Thanks, Cindy! Are there tip sheets available for college students on identifying threatening/intimatating and/or stalking interactions through social media and safety planning around this?
 
4.  Y. Henderson
 You are so right I am a non traditional student and I had so much to learn just about social media when I went back to school, however now I can't see life without it.
 
5.  Safety Net
 We typically don't advise social media for intervention on a very personal level. Its not a good forum for counseling or giving advice about a specific situation. However, if people do post about their situations on your page or site, you do need to reply. So, we advise replying with a message to let them know that the web isn't a private place and that you'd be glad to talk with them further via phone. (Cindy)
 
6.  Safety Net
 2) The best way to figure out how to engage a specific population (like college students) is to find out what sites and pages are currently popular for that group and learn what it is about those sites that draws them in. Consider conducting online focus groups or just lurk on the site or follow the tweets for a few weeks. (Cindy)
 
7.  Safety Net
 1) Social Media can be an incredible tool for prevention efforts and to engage the community in addressing the issue. We need to meet students where they are - and they are using social media. Social media is most useful when it actively engages the user. For example, you can ask open ended questions about current events related to your field or post short quizzes or true false questions. (Be sure to follow up with answers within a few days!)
 
 
What is the biggest mistake people make using social media?
 
1.  NKufuor
 Great question. And what are some of the critical privacy and security issues that we should consider when using social media such as Facebook to interact with professionals who work with children victimized by violence and trauma?
 
2.  Safety Net
 Most people don't realize how interconnected social media is. General users, including survivors, underestimate how the information they reveal about themselves can be shared much more broadly than intended. This is why when using social media, users should be aware of privacy settings and be aware of who has access to their information--including friends, general users, and the owner of that social media platform. For agencies, underestimating the interconnectedness of social media means that they are less effective in their use of social media. At the same time, agencies need to be aware of social media privacy issues so that when they do campaigns or ask users to use social media, they plan for ensuring privacy and confidentiality of their users.
 
3.  c williams
 Coming from the correctional viewpoint: allowing everyone access to their information. Offenders can use this information to literally access them as a victim
 
 
How do you assist crime victims on a web forum while still protecting yourself and your organization from being accused of giving legal advice?
 
1.  Safety Net
 One way is to let people know upfront information you are giving is not legal advice. You can also provide people with options and suggestions by using language like You May, rather than You Should. If you think that the advice you give may be construed, you may want to ask an attorney to review the info before you post it.
 
 
We are a national program utilizing Facebook and Twitter. We have encountered numerous occasions in which individuals have become angry with us because we will not provide advocacy via these vehicles. We remove any post with identifying information and provide our phone number and website. However, individuals have responded that they want help via social media and do not want to call or speak directly with anyone. How do we respond to a generation who is seeking online services while protecting their safety and ensuring confidentiality?
 
1.  CalVCP
 We too have received posts from victims upset with either their process, the justice system, etc. We take the conversation offline--by DM'ing them with an email address so they can contact us --still electronically--and get further information. In one instance--a victim of DV posted on Twitter (it showed up in our RT search column on DV) she was upset bc she couldn't afford medical bills. We reached out to her confidentially--and were able to get her to apply for assistance. Now she's our biggest re-tweeter!
 
2.  Safety Net
 Hi Katie! Weve had survivors get annoyed with us, too, when we explain some of the steps we take to protect safety and privacy. Its an ongoing struggle. I was quite surprised when as part of early meetings with your colleagues and the amazing group of young people who helped design the Teen Helpline that none of the teens or college students on the advisory board had ever heard of spyware. Now that youve educated website visitors about spyware, I think there are countless young people who are more aware. I think we just keep trying to find the right balance of reaching teens where they are, but ensuring were completely up front about privacy and safety risks. (Cindy)
 
 
How do you see victim services using social media to assist crime victims? Will you give one example?
 
1.  Safety Net
 Because the content in most social media is public, victim services should be aware of victims confidentiality and privacy. One of the best ways to use social media to assist survivors is to provide information. For example, if you were using Facebook as your social media, you will want to be sure that your Facebook page has clear information about your services and contact information. However, you may not want to discuss a specific case or situation on Facebook because that will reveal personal information about the victim. When using new technologies, be sure to safety plan around safety and privacy issues. However social media is great for outreach and education.
 
 
What is the best way to publicize the fact that you are using a social media...that media itself or the usual of press release and direct mail
 
1.  Safety Net
 Using the media itself can be the fastest way to do this. Try starting by linking the social media accounts to your website. Facebook and twitter have recognizable icons you can put on your homepage. You may also want to link your social media accounts to each other - there are options in the account settings to do this. Reach out to your audience through social media, ex. Follow other organizations on Twitter. Direct mail and PRs can also help, but leveraging the power of the online community you already have is the most direct way to publicize that you are on now on social media.
 
 
With so much information being so easy to get on-line is it harder to keep victims safe?
 
1.  James
 I have found that there are pros and cons using social media, however the pros appear to be winning. I have received valuable information on substantive topics, such as stalking and hate groups; and about others experiencing similar crimes. On the other hand, I have found that there are many perpetrators surfing social media looking for victims and grossly misinforming those seeking help or comfort. Discretion is king.
 
2.  Safety Net
 Basically, information about victims should never be posted online without a victim's fully informed consent. For agencies using social media & social networking tools, this includes alerting victims to all potential risks before asking them to participate in a NEW online outreach activity or campaign.
 
3.  Safety Net
 YES. it is! This is why it's so important to have state, territorial and federal laws, such as VAWA and FVPSA, as well as agency policies that protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of all. It's also important for agencies, systems and sites to have specific additional recourses and protections available for victims of crime. For example, it is critical that courts give victims upfront notice about options to seal court records and keep court cases from being posted online. Otherwise, a victim may go to court for a landlord action and this might get posted as a public record online. These public records get aggregated by information brokers, making it a lot easier for the stalker to find a crime victim who is in hiding.
 
4.  Victoria
 We are finding it even harder to protect victims due to social media sites because offenders can now have gang or family members continue to keep their FacebookMy Space pages updates, make derogatory comments about the victim etc, thereby using these sites to intimidate the victim and the sites refuse to take them down.
 
 
What are many federal/state agencies doing with social media to assist crime victims.
 
1.  Safety Net
 Federal agencies are using social media primarily as an outreach and educational tool for example, NIJ has done podcasts about stalking and technology (http://www.nij.gov/multimedia/video-cindy-southworth.htm) OVC, through its Vision 21 project, is looking at emerging technology (and other) issues facing victims and the services providers who help them. The White House Advisor on Violence Against Women is doing regular blog posts: http://www.whitehouse.gov/search/site/lynnຈRosenthal. Since social media is by nature a public and published medium, its not ideal for private and sensitive conversations :-) (Cindy)
 
 
What are some ways/suggestions for introducing 'difficult' staff to social media and its benefits when they may be resistant to change (see social media as security threats and refuse to even have a personal email address let alone consider the fact that our victims may access social media)
 
1.  Safety Net
 In terms of working with survivors who are using social media, advocates need to be aware of the privacy risks and safety plan accordingly. Asking the survivor to not use social media is not always the best advice. For some victims, their online social network may be their only support system, and as advocates we can support the decisions survivors make by providing information about privacy risks. For example, a survivor may still use Facebook, but she may limit the information she shares on Facebook or she may lock down her account so that its as private as it can be. For this reason, advocates, even if they dont like new technology, should understand it enough to be able to safety plan with victims.
 
2.  Safety Net
 Some people may be resistant to using new technologies partly because they are resistant to new technology, but concerns about social media being a security threat or privacy risk are quite valid. For agencies to be successful in using social media, staff needs to understand the purpose and goal of using that tool. You may also need to measure the success of using that tool to show people how successful it can be. Before an agency use social media, they should plan for adequate resources, staff buy-in, and privacy and safety considerations. Without that, social media use cannot be successful.
 
 
What are the key considerations for advocates who are working with survivors and their use of social media in communication, ie text messages, etc.?
 
1.  Safety Net
 Revealing whereabouts and activities are 2 considerations. First, it is crucial a survivor know the dangers of posting her location to any social media platform, like in a Facebook status update. Also, posting pics from her phone can contain GPS coordinates embedded in the image. Limiting profiles, blocking users and double-checking privacy settings are a good place to start. Spyware is always a concern, no matter what the survivor is doing online or with a phone. With cell phones, an abuser might try to get info through texting by pretending to be a different person: referred to as caller Id spoofing. You can read more on WomensLaw http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id13883&state_codePG
 
 
Do you have any suggestions on using social media postings as evidence of domestic violence?
 
1.  Safety Net
 You can use social media postings as evidence of domestic violence, such as when an abuser is posting harassing or threatening messages to the victim or contacting the victim through social media when there is a protection order in place. However, the victim and advocate need to discuss this with law enforcement and attorneys particularly if this is part of a legal case. Sometimes weve seen abusers or abusers attorney use posts that survivors have written against the survivor in custody cases or divorce cases. There is also the concern of someone faking these posts. Because its quite complex, you are welcome to contact Safety Net at NNEDV to discuss this more in-depth. http://nnedv.org/contact.html
 
 
Can social media activity be admitted into criminal proceedings as evidence, and how do the courts view this in aiding a criminal case?
 
1.  Safety Net
 Social media is often used in both the investigation process and in the courtroom. States have different rules of evidence so ask local police, prosecutors, and family law attorneys what evidence or documentation is needed. For example, judges in California will allow voicemail message evidence, but it has to be written or typed out and brought in as a transcript. A subpoena, warrant, or court order may be needed to get phone, Internet, or Social Media evidence and this can take a few days or even a few weeks. Also police may need to do a preservation letter to the phone company since text messages are often deleted within a few days.
 
 
What kind of guidelines can we provide parents who want to use social media in the search of their missing child? Thanks!
 
1.  Safety Net
 I'd mention that if a child does go missing, a parent (abusive or non-abusive) can attempt to search for them on online spaces that child likes to frequent. For example, if the child is a gamer, the child may eventually find a way to get online again to play games. Same if the child has friends on facebook, myspace,webcam chat spaces, photosharing sites, twitter, etc.
 
2.  Child Quest
 In addition to working with law enforcement, we recommend parents use the services of reputable 501c3 nonprofit missing children organizations that are trained in this field and have been through the trials and tribulations of child recovery. These orgs know how to navigate the many pitfalls searching families face. Many of these organizations, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and ours (www.childquest.org, www.facebook.com/ChildQuest)can assist with rapid missing children flyer distribution that includes a toll-free number for tips. They can also interact on the families behalf with law enforcement, media, and other missing children organizations.
 
3.  Safety Net
 It really depends upon the context. It's one thing if it's an amber alert where a child has gone missing and both parents are nonabusive. Nonabusive parents who's children go missing sometimes get the word out quickly by creating websites and facebook pages, searching image sites like Flickr or using tools like www.tineye.com to see if their child's image is somewhere on the web. But, we often work with survivors who fled an abuser where that abuser misuses social media tools to stalk. Abusers and Perpetrators tweet lies and create my child's been kidnapped websites in an effort to manipulate the public into helping them find the victim and her children.
 
 
Do you use Facebook as a forum for providing assistance to crime victims? Have you used Facebook or another social media forum to provide continuing assistance to individuals who are enrolled or have participated in grant-funded training (pre-, during, or post-training)?
 
1.  CalVCP
 The CA Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) uses FB to reach out to CA victims who may not know our program exists. We post info linking to our online brochures outining guidelines for compensation--as well as how to apply. We also have found FB useful to communicate to victims about their right to restitution.
 
2.  Safety Net
 We use Facebook as a way to share information about our organization and activities that are open to the general public. We do have survivors who reach out to us on our Facebook page. For privacy and confidentiality reasons, however we dont post information back and forth on our Facebook Wall. Instead we ask them to call us or we identify another method of communication that is more private and secure. As for providing training to individuals, Facebook may not be the best method. Instead, webinar tools or other social media tools will be better. Dont forget that social media is more than just Facebook, which is a very small piece of social media. There are many tools that you can use; research which tool is the best for your purpose. Wikis are a good collaborating tool, for example.
 
3.  Safety Net
 We use Facebook as a way to share information about our organization and our activities that are open to the general public. We do have survivors who reach out to us on our Facebook page. For privacy and confidentiality reasons, however we dont post information back and forth on our Facebook Wall. Instead we ask them to call us or we identify another method of communication that is more private and secure. As for providing training to individuals, Facebook may not be the best method. Instead, webinar tools or other social media tools will be better. Dont forget that social media is more than just Facebook, which is a very small piece of social media. There are many tools that you can use; research which tool is the best for your purpose. Wikis are a good collaborating tool, for example.
 
 
Can you point us to a guide for getting started? We're a service provider in a rural community, not currently using social media but interested in increasing victim awareness of our services, while not compromising safety and security. Where to begin? What's effectiveineffective, etc.
 
1.  CalVCP
 We have been successfully managing social media accounts to communicate with victims and stakeholders for over a year. We're happy to share our guidelines for implementing SM within a Govt. entity. Ping us on Twitter @helpingvictims
 
2.  Safety Net
 Good question! NNEDV has a bunch of Technology Safety Resources that your organization can use as a guide to get started, some in 2 - 8 languages, at: http://www.nnedv.org/safetynetdocs . The document titled: Social Networking & Privacy Tips for Domestic & Sexual Violence Programs is a good place to start. Nina
 
 
We are finding that offenders are using social media sites to intimidate victims. If they have a pre-existing page, they have family or gang members continue to post comments, pictures, and especially derogatory comments about the victims. We have contacted these sites to ask them to remove the account since the offender is incarcerated, etc. but they have said they aren't allowed to legally. Is that true and if so, why?
 
1.  Safety Net
 This is unfortunately far too common however there is always a digital trail so the police can actually pull the documentation that shows witness intimidation. Bail conditions and protection orders can also have specific language that prohibits contact by the defendant or contact through third parties in any form and including websites and social media. Typically websites cant remove accounts if an advocate contacts them, however they may be able to remove an account if the police or an attorney show the posting violate a court order.
 
 
How do we know what youtub videos and website links are professional and appropriate to refer too?
 
1.  Safety Net
 You should watch them or read the website and determine if the information provided is appropriate or accurate. If you are unsure if its accurate, ask experts on that topic and ask for their opinion. In terms of appropriateness, if you value survivor-centered empowerment you may not want to share a video or a website that blames victims, for example. Also think about the audience you are sharing this with. Some videos on internet safety geared toward middle school students may not be appropriate for high school students. Review the content before you share it.
 
 
What tips can you offer a victim of DV around making information available to perpetrators who may get heads up on what a victim is doing to get safety??
 
1.  Safety Net
 We encourage survivors to be very aware of their technology use and any trails that may alert an abuser to the victim's safety plans. We have a technology safety plan in 8 languages on our website at www.nnedv.org/SafetyNetDocs. We also have a piece on the same page about SpyWare -- it is critical that survivors trust their instincts if they think their abuser is monitoring their phone records, SMS history, or computer trail. Also, it is not possible to delete a computer history, since SpyWare records everything even the attempt to clear the history.
 
 
Do you have any suggestions for growing your Facebook fans? Anything besides the basic asking your friends to suggest your page, etc.?
 
1.  Safety Net
 Hi Lauren! Good question. A few suggestions: You can start a blog and Twitter account and use those accounts to advertise your Facebook page. Put a Facebook icon on the homepage of your website and link it to your page. Add the FB icon (hyperlinked to your FB page) to the bottom of email signatures and e-newsletters. To read more about increasing your fans on Facebook, Mashable (http:mashable.com)is a good place to learn more.
 
 
When assisting victims obtain protection ordersinjunctions, is it necessary or recommended to specify social media as one form of unwanted contact from the defendant or abuser? Or do you think this would this fall under the emailfax category of no contact?
 
1.  Safety Net
 Yes, you may want to have the judge include specific language that prohibits contact by the abuser or contact through third parties in any form, including websites and social media. You can read more about protection orders and what they can include on WomensLaw.org here: http://bit.ly/hk0Ml4
 
 
As a government agency, we have trouble promoting our social media sites with other government workers. For example, we want the county victim advocates to be connected to us but many have restrictions from using FB and Twitter at work. Any suggestions?
 
1.  Safety Net
 :This sounds like a policy issue. Even though we understand some agencies have these sorts of restrictions, they should not prohibit your agency from being as effective as possible. We generally recommend agencies evaluate these policies on an annual basis based on their interventions, prevention and outreach goals. You may want to explain to the policy makers at these agencies why your social media site would be beneficial for the community of advocates and identify - communicate the safety and privacy measures you have put in place in your tools.
 
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